Thursday, November 5, 2015

8 questions you need to ask before buying cat food

Besides price, what should you be looking for in a cat food?    Pet food companies spend BILLIONS of $$$ on marketing and advertising.  So no matter what you hear on TV about trust and nutrition,  the bottom line is that pet food companies are in business to make money.  Period.  As an informed consumer, I want you  to look past the glossy pictures of fresh salmon and feel good words like ALL NATURAL and GRAIN FREE.  I recommend getting into the habit of reading the back of the bag (or can label) before making you best choice.

 Do you know what parent company makes your choice of cat food?  Did you know that  Iams Cat Food Co. is owned by Procter and Gamble?    Do you know what mega company owns Science Diet?  (Colgate- Palmolive).  It is important to know WHO is making the food you are feeding, because in the end, you are trusting that this company is offering you a safe and healthy choice for your cat.    Iams and Science Diet have been in business for decades, but when they were bought out by billion- dollar corporations, the quality of their products declined.  Makes you think, doesn't it...

 What are the major ingredients in the food you are feeding?  The front of the food bag may state "using only farm-raised chicken", but the primary ingredients may be (and often are) something completely different.   The ingredient list on the bag (or can) is required to be listed by weight.  Ideally I want you to chose a food that has a recognizable meat source like chicken  listed as the first 2 or 3 ingredients. It's helpful to know what you cat's preferences are before trying a new brand.  Most cats have a real preference for one specific meat source.  Do you know what your cat loves???

How much protein should your cat's food contain?  You are feeding a carnivore, so only pay for meat-based foods.   You will find the protein % listed under the  "GUARANTEED ANALYSIS."  Some dry products on the market are as low as 28% protein. In my opinion, this is an unsafe level of protein for health.   My hope is that you are feeding a dry product with AT LEAST 40% protein or higher.   If you add the protein% and the fat % together and subtract from 100, you will approximate the carbohydrate % in the dry food.  Again, carbs are not listed on the label, because I would suspect that the company does not want us to know, but keeping the carbohydrate % low is in the best health of your feline family.

What about canned foods?  Protein % in canned foods will be based on how much water is in the can, so in general I want you to chose a canned food with a protein level of 10% or greater.  Also, as a wise consumer you want to be aware of the % moisture in the canned food.  Water is an inexpensive ingredient, one you can add at home before serving.  If you compare 2 brands that are both 6 ounces, the one with less water will have more nutrition and calories, and be more economical.

Should you  feed as much as the bag tells you to feed?  In a word, NEVER.  Pet food companies want you to buy more food, and so they  recommend over feeding. You may think this sounds cynical, but it is also true.   Know that the average 10# cat should be eating 200-250kcals total per day.  If you have questions on how much to feed your individual cat, please contact us and we will be glad to help you.  Always bring specific diet related questions with you for your cats annual wellness exam, a perfect time to discuss nutrition specifics for you cat. 

How many calories are in the foods that you are feeding?  This important information is usually available on the pet food web site only.  Most companies do not print calories on their labels, because this in not required by law.  Dry food formulations can vary from between 300- 600 kcal per cup! Why is this important to know?  It is really the only way to know how much food per day you should be feeding to prevent obesity. 

Is grain free important?  The short answer is yes and no.  Ideally, I want you to look for a LOW CARBOHYDRATE, high protein food.  The term "grain-free" implies this, but in reality many of these foods are full of non-grain carbohydrates like potato flour, pea flour and other starches.  The only way to know what you are buying is to read the ingredient list.

Do you want to explore this topic further on your own?  Here is a link to Dr. Lisa A Pierson's webpage that has a very useful comparison chart of the nutritional value of many popular cat foods  and is really worth checking out:  nutritional chart pdf. 

I hope this blog has helped make your next trip to the cat food isle  less daunting.  Companies are regularly changing their ingredients, labels and the quality of their brands.  Being a cautious and wise consumer is our only defense when shopping for the best foods -for ourselves and our pets!
 As always, if you found this information useful, please feel free to share with your cat-loving friends.  Dr.  Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why BLUEBERRIES should be in your cat food

If you read the labels of the higher priced brands of pet food(as I encourage you to do) , you will see ingredients like blueberries or cranberries or flax seed and other recognizable people food.  At first glance, that just makes no sense.  Cats eat meat in the wild.  They are carnivores. And maybe you pass these food by thinking my cat shouldn't eat a food with fruit or seeds added.

But wait!  Lets take a step back, and talk about functional foods for a bit.  Functional foods are beneficial nutritional ingredients that have a positive effect on the body at a cellular level and may help to prevent, manage, or even reverse a variety of chronic diseases. -or in simple terms "foods with a function".   Many of these functional foods contain phytonutrients.  Carotenoids, which include alpha-carotene and beta-carotine, are probably the most widely known class of phytonutrients. Blueberries are high in phytochemicals called flavinoids which are anitoxidants.  Antioxidants are important in helping the body handle environmental toxins, help protect against heart disease and cancer.  The fiber in fresh fruits and vegetables also helps promote optimal GI functioning and weight loss. 

There is a new scientific field called nutrigenomics, which is the science of how the foods that we eat  affect the body at cellular level (at our epigenome) which in turn alters our genetic predisposition toward health or disease.   To me, this almost sounds like science fiction!    I just finished reading a book called Canine Nutrigenomics, The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health by Dr. W Jean Dodds, DVM.,     If you are a science nerd like I am, you will enjoy this book.  She discusses functional foods for pets with specific medical conditions like arthritis and obesity.  A good read!

A functional food that I add to my pets diet is fish oil.  Omega-3 fatty acids are heat sensitive and so should be added just before feeding time.  A fish oil fatty acid supplement has so many benefits for health so if there is one functional food supplement that you give to your pet regularly, let it be this one!

  A list of functional foods, besides blueberries and fish oil includes:  coconut oil, tumeric, milk thistle, pomegranates, probiotics and spirulina.

My takeaway point is this.  You don't have to be satisfied with the nutrition in the can or bag -you can add functional foods in small amounts to IMPROVE the nutrition for your cat.  Our cats are counting on us -lets make their food tasty AND healthy!    I encourage you to bring the bag and cans of any food you are feeding with you at your cat's next wellness visit.  We will incorporate nutritional advice with your wellness appointment, and take the time to answer any nutritional questions that you have.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Canine Influenza and Your Cat

This is a virus that can potentially be shared from dog to cat. Why is this important to you as a cat owner? As many of you cat owners also have dogs in your family, this is especially vital information.  Read carefully.  I have added additional links for further information at the end of this blog.  Note:  strictly indoor cats with NO exposure to dogs are still at risk, as an influenza virus can be carried from a human (on your shoe or coat or hand if you handle an infected dog) to your indoor cat.  This is called "fomite" transmission and it is possible with any flu virus.
Below is specific current information outlining what is known about Canine Influenza.                       


MADISON-Canine influenza virus (CIV) has affected at least 1,000 dogs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana in the last month, including one confirmed case in the Madison area. Previously thought to be caused by the H3N8 strain, which has been circulating in North America since 2004, recent tests from the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL) and the New York State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University have identified the strain as H3N2.

"It's believed that the H3N2 strain was introduced here from Asia," says Keith Poulsen, WVDL diagnostic and case outreach coordinator and clinical assistant professor at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM). "The commercially available vaccines for CIV are made to protect against the H3N8 strain, and their effectiveness against the H3N2 strain is unknown at this time."

Neither CIV strain is related to the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu, which was recently reported in a commercial flock in Jefferson County; they are completely different strains that affect separate species.

Both CIV strains can cause persistent cough, runny nose, and fever. A small percentage of dogs will develop more severe clinical signs, and some will not show any symptoms at all. The infection has been associated with some deaths. Currently, there is no evidence that either CIV strain is contagious to humans; however, H3N2 has caused infection and respiratory illness in cats.

"We're advising pet owners to seek veterinary medical care, including diagnostic testing and potential treatment for dogs and cats exhibiting clinical signs of CIV," says Sandi Sawchuk, head of primary care at UW Veterinary Care (UWVC) and SVM clinical instructor.

For pet owners, UWVC recommends the following:

--If possible, get your dog vaccinated. Although it is unknown if commercial vaccines will be effective against the H3N2 strain, they will reduce the incidence and severity of disease in dogs infected with the H3N8 strain, which is still in circulation. There is no feline vaccine at this time.

--Avoid bringing your dog into close contact with other dogs.

--Wash your hands and change your clothes if you work with or are exposed to sick dogs before handling your own pets at home. Soap and water is very effective at inactivating influenza virus.

--Call your veterinarian for further instructions if your dog or cat is showing signs of persistent cough, runny nose, and fever.

What is the time course of infection?
Specific infection studies have not bee conducted with the new H3N2 CIV strain circulating in the US, but based on other influenza viruses more generally, incubation period is expected to be 2-3 days, with clinical signs last 5-7 days and viral shedding extending to 10-14 days following the onset of clinical disease.

What are general recommendations for clients?
  1. Vaccinate dogs when possible - despite unknown efficacy of current H3N8 commercial vaccines to prevent or diminish clinical disease with the new H3N2 virus - to the best of our knowledge, the original H3N8 virus has not disappeared.
  2. Maintain good general infection control principles when exposed to other dogs, e.g. limit direct dog-to-dog oronasal contact.
  3. Soap and water is very effective at inactivating virus.
  4. The virus will live in the environment for 24-48 hours in the majority of cases.
  5. Wash your hands and change your clothes if you work with, or are exposed to, sick dogs before handling your own pets at home.                                                             Influenza                                                                                                                        

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Construction on Appleton Road

It's Spring.  And that means Highway Construction in Wisconsin. This year, it means Appleton Road
Closings!   My plan is to keep you updated on the Tri County Expansion as it related to "getting to the Fox Valley Cat Clinic".

Starting in mid-April (sometime in the next 30 days), the DOT will be CLOSING Appleton Road between Midway Rd and Tuckaway Lane (our little side street) in Menasha.  For 75 days, they will be designing roundabouts at the on-and-off ramps leading onto Hwy 441 from Appleton Road. 

The project website is

From mid-April to early July, traffic exiting 441 will be rerouted to either the MIDWAY exit to Valley Road/ Racine Street, which parallels 441 OR Oneida Street  exit to Valley Road.  Either exit off of 441 can be used to get to the clinic during these 75 days.  If you live on the lake side of Appleton Road, you can simply take Oneida St under 441 to Valley Road. 

It is expected that by the first week in JULY, Appleton Road will be functional again. then life will be good (as it related to getting to the Cat Clinic anyway)!

I will be using my BLOG as well as Facebook to keep you'all updated on the progress of things.

As always, if you need directions, please call us at 882-2287 and we can get you from there to here!

Happy Spring!

Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Good Lessons from Edna

Edna is our new clinic cat, a foster from the Neenah Animal Shelter.  She was found as a stray around
Thanksgiving, wandering the streets of Neenah.  Edna is an old gal -a sweet tabby that deserved better than to spend her golden years sitting in a cage.  Edna has been at the Cat Clinic for only two weeks, but she has reminded me that old cats are very special. 

Edna walks slowly, as many older cats do, especially in the mornings.   Arthritis is often more obvious in the early morning.   But exercise is still VERY important to old cats, as it helps to increase the blood flow, and exercise the heart, muscles and joints.  Edna is not playful, so her exercise is walking up and down the stairs daily to get to our staff lounge, where there are several comfy options for reclining and supervising lunchtimes.

Edna is not an enthusiastic eater.  She is thin, and needs to put weight back on if possible, or at least maintain her current weight.  Old cats often struggle to maintain their weight.  Edna will often eat if the food is put down right in front of her, but will not make the effort to travel to her meal.  Adding warm water to her canned food makes it easier to lap, rather than chew, which many old cats prefer.  Edna is being fed several times a day, and always fresh food, as "leftovers" are much less appetizing and less likely to get eaten.  We are trying many various brands and flavors of canned food to find her preferences, and are trying to offer a different choice with every meal.  Many old cats need this variety to keep them interested in eating.

Edna is also  poor groomer.  We don't know how long she was a stray, or what kind of life she led before she got "lost".  Although she is a short haired cat, she is starting to develop mats.  This is common in old cats for many reasons, and usually means that the cat is no longer grooming themselves.    She is enjoying her daily grooming sessions, and it is amazing how much hair can be combed out of one skinny old cat!   Being gentle is the key to her enjoying her grooming sessions, as her skin is fragile and she is probably arthritic along her back.  If you find an area that your cat does not appreciate being groomed, it may indicate pain.  Respect their wishes, and try to avoid sensitive areas if possible.

Edna is taking some time to get to know her new surroundings.  She has started greeting us in the morning when we all arrive at the clinic to start our day.  Like most cats, she wants to be fed  MEOW in the mornings!  It will be interesting to see how this sweet girl's personality blossoms over time.  My experience with strays is that it takes some time to build back the trust, but the journey is well worth the effort.  Many thanks to Neenah Animal Shelter for rescuing the old gal from the streets, and also allowing us to foster her.  My goal is to get her strong and beautiful so some kind soul will take her into their home and lives.  But she may just live out her life at the Fox Valley Cat Clinic as our special Edna!

Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Friday, January 2, 2015

Dr. Flatley's New Year's Resolutions

My cats got together and made a list of the things THEY think I should do for them in the 2015.  Can you believe it!   I thought that you might be interested in what I will be working on in 2015 to improve the quality of feline happiness in my home.  (SHARE this list with your own cats AT YOUR OWN RISK!!)

1-  Brand new and BIGGER litter boxes.  We are tired of the same old litter boxes -come on -we deserve REALLY BIG BOXES!!

2-  Could you PLEASE get us new toys on a more regular basis ?  OR AT LEAST ROTATE them weekly, so we think they are new?  Fresh cat nip toys would be really appreciated around here, as somebody (Peabody) can not control himself, and always chews them open within minutes!

3-  We appreciate that DAILY SCOOPING.  And thanks for NOT USING any air fresheners around the boxes.  How about if this year you try some of the cool natural cat litter choices?   Swheat Scoop, The World's Best Cat Litter, Feline Pine all sound interesting.  DON'T take the old litterboxes completely away, though, as somebody (Stringbean) ONLY LIKES gravel.

4-  We LOVE the canned food that we get every day, but can you PLEASE keep looking for more variety.  We really LIKE a different kind of food EVERY DAY.  And while we are at it, NO LEFT OVERS.  We hate it COLD from the frig -cut that out!

5-  We know that you already help several of the local area cat rescue groups in town  AND donate your time to CATS ANONYMOUS TNR program, but we think you should do more. We see how many homeless cats there are (on facebook) and it is scary-sad.

6-  I know that you tell us that annual blood work is important for you to know how healthy we are.  OK, we promise to be on our BEST BEHAVIOR for this, but ONLY if you promise fresh pieces of warm ROTISSERIE CHICKEN as a treat on all holidays, birthdays, Sundays and full moons!

Happy New Year to all of my followers.  Improving and enriching the quality of your feline family will make them healthier and happier, a recipe for a very HAPPY NEW YEAR indeed!

Dr. Maureen Flatley  and
Peabody, Posie, and Stringbean